Monday, March 31, 2014

Across The Aisle #6: Rituals of Tribal Dance


WARNING: Across the Aisle features a weekly helping of extraordinary, yet exploratory, writing, gratuitous pop culture abuse, and complimentary Funyons. Due to our conscious decision to explore familiar themes in an inimitable, though inherently divisive, manner, such brilliance is solely intended for mature reading audiences. This is Hive Mind 101. That glorious moment when Wonder Twin powers activate. Jay Connor. Alex Hardy. The triumphant return of Voltron. These ain’t no studio tricks. Enjoy.

Episode 06
Rituals of Tribal Dance


Jay Connor: My name is Jay. I like long walks on the beach, banjos, “Clarissa Explains It All” reruns, and I hate the Electric Slide. What? Too soon? Did I ruin this date already? Look, before you clamor to have my Black card declined at the nearest barbershop (or “routine” traffic stop), can I at least state my case? First and foremost, ain’t shit fly about that goofy ass spectacle ya’ll call a dance. I can’t tell if you’re trying to stomp out a fire, start a lawnmower, or depant yourself without using your hands. “It’s Electric! Boogie-woogie-woogie!” my ass. That song’s soul was at peace and Marcia Griffiths snuck into the graveyard and went all Dr. Frankenstein on its corpse. Golf, White women, Nick Cannon… leave it to a black person to always fuck up a good thing. But hey, if public displays of synchronized embarrassment are your cup of tea, then by all means live your life and enjoy the fruits of your WorldStarHipHop labor. Infidels.  
Alex Hardy: Look. My earliest memories of Black and Black Panamanian life all include the Electric Slide. Rice, bay leaves, grits, and the Electric Slide. Wack according to your Hungry Man meal and Cheeto-eating opinion or not, that is Black History right there, bitch. The Electric Slide is an institution of ChocoLife for more variations of Blackfolk than I had ever imagined. Along with debates over whose potato salad is worse and collective bashing of your auntie’s raggedy sperm donor with six kids by 12 women, this Classic Negroidian Line Dance is one of the few things that can mend broken family wounds. I’ve seen relatives who would rather eat unseasoned chicken than make eye contact with one another reunite in Group Niggardom during the Electric Slide.
You haven’t lived until you’ve seen somebody’s Meemaw hurriedly suck the meat off a chicken bone at a cookout and shuffle to the dance floor before that first kick-pivot and quarter turn. I recently observed a guy mocking the Electric Slide before a group of Blacks. But when he threatened to bust it out in the middle of the restaurant, the only part he did was the part where you rock/dip forward, then back. Again. And again. No side shuffle. No kick-pivot-quarter turn. His friend assured him, “WAIT. Listen. DO YOU KNOW HOW TO DO THE ELECTRIC SLIDE?!?! If you don’t, just tell me in my ear. It’s okay.” (He didn’t know.) Is that what this is? Have you transformed your Niggershame into disdain? It’s okay, man. We’re all friends here. Except.
Your nimble meemaw.
JC: See, but I really feel as though a Soul Train line serves the same purpose, give or take a couple thousand style points. The Electric Slide is unsavory, American Bandstand-esque performance art, whereas a Soul Train line is like a soulful orgy where the wet spot magically sleeps on itself. One cultivates heresy, the other a healthy competition in which dominance is dictated by who can clap loudest prior to busting out The Running Man.
AH:  The Soul Train line is a tricky thing to pull off well. Many things need to be in place. You need a decent amount of people who are ‘bout it and respecting the natural rhythm order of things and know which counts get a clap and which gets a head bop. Nothing worse than some clown (or auntie) with little Beat Awareness and a lot of Fucking Nerve inventing counts while easing on down the road. It’s like Diddy’s verses on the Last Train to Paris album. Fucks everything up. Unless everyone is slizzard on your Uncle Hosie’s famous jungle juice, in which case none of this matters and you don’t realize that your cousin has the grace of a siamese goat. Don’t hate on the Electric Slide, though, nigger. Next thing you’ll tell me is that you don’t like grits, in which case this whole shit is over.
JC: Grits are just porch monkey tofu, but that’s a discussion for another day. Besides, and most importantly, can The Black Clap™ even precede the Electric Slide?  
AH: The Slave Descendant Dancefloor Palm Slap™, that which signals the cutting of rugs, can do anything it wants.
JC: The Pickaninny Paw Pummel™? The “Awwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwww SHIT!!!” Applause™? If this social gathering ritual, indigenous to dance floors, weddings, and subway cars, doesn’t come from a colored person, it’s just cheap imitation palm gonorrhea.
AH: Agreed. I had to actually learn to NOT bust out the ( ) before dancing way back in the day. It’s one of my favorite Negroidian Idiosyncrasies and is a pretty good indicator of the level of Funky Blackness present in a potential mate’s childhood. A beautiful distinctly Black thing of beautifully Black beautifulness . Right up there with The Funky Black Stank Face. Have you ever heard a White woman exclaim during those important first five seconds of the intro, “THIS. IS. MY. SAWWWWNG?!” as hips her Of course not. We so spirited.
Our cookouts were never this cool.
JC: And coordinated. Never forget. Who needs the likes of Laurie Ann Gibson when we can just Wobble the thralls of our inferior socioeconomic standing away? Line dances and inside jokes must’ve been separated at birth, because if you ever find yourself on the receiving end of an explanation for either, that sound you hear is your God wiping his ass with your entire existence. This isn’t intramural sports, there’s no film studies or playbook. And good luck finding a G-Slide for Dummies series to thumb through in order to salvage your dignity. When you relinquished the deed to your virginity, did it come with a practice round? If you want to be as Black as the rest of us, you better tuck your nuts, negotiate some elbow room, and come get a slice of this dance floor pie. Leave the training wheels for the paraplegics.
AH: What was the go-to dance at your clan’s gatherings? The Sharecropper Shuffle? For me, Mom’s Panamanian side guaranteed lots of soca and tons and tons of Black folks moving their arms in big circles, because EVERY Black person thinks they “can salsa.”
JC: You’re asking the wrong person. I grew up in a home bereft of digestible cuisine, extended family members, and superfluous R. Kelly remixes. It was heavily religious, extremely strict. Kind of like AC Green’s vagina. The pre-divorce incarnation of our matriarch wasn’t about that sinful secular life, so the only dancing we did involved tambourines and altar calls. That said, my first exposure to that synchronized seizure known as The Electric Slide was in The House That Tithes Built, and my cognitive well-being has been quarantined since. But these days, the only minstrel shows I audition for are of the Cupid Shuffle variety. It’s the booty call of Negroidian line dances, so no hand holding or kissing in the mouth in public. I get in, get out, and spend the rest of the week booed up with the Macarena.   
AH: I see. The Cupid Shuffle. I have zero connection with this song. I’ve seen and heard this Negro anthem at cookouts in dense pockets of non-Northern Blackness where 32-year-old grandmas sway with wine coolers, 5XL polos engulf engorged bellies, durag capes fly proudly in the breeze and Newport cigarettes dangle defiantly from lips that enclose brown gums that bear very few dental fruits. It’s the kinda song that accompanies the sweet sound of dominos being slapped aggressively on a fold-up picnic table as sizzling pork provides the soundtrack to some good ol’ fashioned artery clogging and waistline expansion. Mmm. Like the Third Ward in the springtime. I don’t know much about this deep-fried Electric Slide offshoot, but it was certainly exploits that thin layer of inherent ridiculousness found in all line dances. It’s earnest this-could-just-as-easily-all-be-a-parody lyrics and soulful talksinging provides ample opportunities for red cup-fueled communal cooning and bonus level Niggering. I totally get its hymn-like appeal.
JC: So outside of starting your invisible lawnmower the Electric Backslide and spear chucking, are there any other poorly choreographed, collective tribal dance rituals of which you partake?
AH: Well. Let’s see. When I was in New Orleans, whiling my days away in a paradise of caloric excess and drive thru daiquiri stands and [ahem], some friend and I thought it would be a good idea to learn the Blurred Lines line dance. Meets the three requirements for Black Line Dances: Simple. Teachable. Can be done while fucked up. Now, we never actually went out to perform it, but it was a nice thought. Old school line dances are predictable and typically repeat after about 16 counts. They’re simple enough that even your lush uncle could follow along while under the spell of his beloved $2 bottle. The same uncle who made liquor, jobs, and hope for a better tomorrow disappear with astounding ease. That guy. But these new shits? I’m a dancer. I think that a Global Negro Line Dance and Fish Fry Jamboree could rival All Star Weekend both in size and economic impact. And my ass still struggles discerning the patterns in these new shits that are ultimately 5 minutes of actual, non-repeating choreography. Like this one, the Terminal Reaction. The fuck is this? Now, I feel less than. I polled Twitter yesterday, and they also agree that qualifies as Some Bullshit. Safe to say, like demand for an album from Eve, that timeless factor that unites multiple generations, under God, with hypertension and red cups for all like The Wobble and The Electric Slide doesn’t happen often.
JC: Yes, because unlike blackmail, Black Friday, or Black Jesus, #BlackTwitter has all the answers. Though most line dances entail tacit “cultural allegiances”, it takes a certain degree of charm and contagion grace for one to throw on the cap and gown and graduate into a full-fledged dance floor pandemic. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither was this atrocity. So thank you line dances, for unifying us in ways that even sex, cigarettes and bigotry envy.

Read Episode 05: "Exploration, Conquest, and Sonic Colonization"
Read Episode 04: "Melanin (and) Manipulation: The Jackson Legacy"
Read Episode 03: "Principles and Practices of a Bobby Browned Childhood"
Read Episode 02: "Posture and Promiscuity"
Read Episode 01: "Fundamentals of Separation Anxiety"
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A million thanks to my partner in crime:





Jay Connor is a prized pupil of the esteemed Professor Xavier and a Los Angeles based freelance writer. When he’s not preoccupied with accruing overdraft fees while chasing the dream, he can be found disseminating terrorist threats on Twitter and Facebook. Direct all business inquiries, sexual innuendo and Nigerian email scams to deathtoadverbs@gmail.com.










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